The Junior Basketball League was an American league exclusively for high school and junior college basketball players. Its design was primarily an alternate to the NCAAs, allowing junior college and high school players to quickly transition to professional play immediately. A large percentage of players who started out in this league were not recruited by any Division I programs, which meant that the Junior B Leagues was a much cheaper and more accessible place for many talented young basketball players. With the growing popularity of NCAAs, the Junior Leagues began to fade out of the limelight as colleges began to play more difficult games and tournaments. Today the league is still around as a semi-professional organization but its level of professionalism has taken a hit from its earlier days of being an alternative to Division I programs.
The JBRL was created in 1940 by the National Basketball League. It was primarily a traveling league of teams that visited different basketball hot spots during the season and had only one official home. This helped the league to become more than a local traveling competition, and as a result the JBRL became more involved with the game. In addition, due to the traveling nature of the league the JBRL began to expand its reach. In its first two years of existence it played games in Canada, England, and Italy, while later in the 1970s it expanded to include countries such as Italy, Russia, and the Philippines.
The JBRL was originally a single national league, but soon in its second year, the International League was formed. This league was primarily made up of teams from other countries, but would eventually merge with the Junior B League. The I League had more teams per capita than the JBRL and eventually became known as the Continental Basketball League, while the JB League remained known as the Junior League. In order for players from any of the leagues to play in the JB League, they were required to have a four-year college eligibility. Although most of the players in this league were not recruited by Division I programs, it was a source for talented players because of the high level of competition in this league, making it more appealing than other options for those looking for a quick NBA career.
As the years went by, the JB League became less of a travel based league and more of a nationally televised competition. This popularity led the Junior League to host an annual Tournament in New York City. This was called the World’s Greatest Young Men tournament. Every year the JB League traveled to different cities across the country to compete against the best high school, middle school, and AAU teams. It also featured a national championship game between the top two teams. This gave every player in the league a chance to showcase their skills in front of national scouts. The tournament was very competitive and featured teams from all over the United States, as well as various international teams.
The Junior League also continued to expand the scope of its games to include international competition. A lot of talent was attracted by the great atmosphere of the JB League, which allowed players to grow at a rapid pace. The JB League also started to offer better pay and better compensation compared to other AAU basketball programs. Some of the best teams in the country attended the tournament because of the competition level. Other tournaments included the Continental Basketball Tournament, the WNBA, and the World Junior Championship. Because of the growth of the tournament the junior league was able to become a member of the NCCA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), which means it is now affiliated with the big three of Division I basketball.
While the Junior Basketball League remains to be a successful professional sport, the league’s humble beginnings may have caused it to go through some changes in the past. If it can stay on its present course and remain competitive then there are many things that we can look forward to in the future.